Constructing an Intranet in the Microsoft Web Environment
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Published in TechRepublic's Windows NT Administrator Report (TechRepublic.com)
The Microsoft Web environment lends itself nicely to corporate intranets. To construct an intranet in this environment, you must understand and be able to utilize some common tools provided with Windows NT 4.0 Server. We'll illustrate the cohesion of a proverbial "Web stew" by configuring WINS, DNS, and IIS 4.0 to work together and host a Web site. Let's get started by defining our Web tools.
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What are we dealing with?
The first piece of this puzzle is Windows Internet Naming Service (WINS). WINS provides the glue that relates an IP address and a computer name. WINS is a common component of any Microsoft Windows NT environment and allows for a flexible IP network. By this I mean the ability to identify computers on your network by name rather than simply by IP address.
Next, Domain Name System (DNS) pieces together a computer name (when used in conjunction with WINS) or IP address and the various domains contained within. DNS is used as the primary address book of the Internet (currently not the Microsoft implementation, but the concept remains the same), and you can use it in a similar fashion for an intranet.
Finally, to host a Web site you must be running some type of Web server. The most common Web server used in a Microsoft environment is Internet Information Server (IIS). Now, let's move on with our example.
We assembled the following server software configuration prior to starting:
Windows NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 3
Windows NT 4.0 Server Option Pack (IIS 4.0)
WINS, much like DNS, runs as a service on Windows NT Server. As we indicated earlier, WINS dynamically registers computer names and IP addresses located on the participating network.
The benefit to configuring WINS on a server within your network stretches well beyond using it in conjunction with DNS to provide a more flexible intranet.
Before you begin working through our example, it's important to note that this process requires multiple reboots. Plan accordingly before adding services to a server on your network.
To add WINS to your server, begin by opening the Network applet in Control Panel (also accessible by right-clicking the Network Neighborhood icon on your desktop and choosing Properties from the context menu). Once the Network properties are displayed, click the Services tab and click Add. You'll see the Select Network Service list box. Scroll down, select the Windows Internet Name Service item, and click OK. Depending on how NT was installed on your system, you may be prompted to point WINS installation to the same location. Once the file copy process completes, click OK to end the installation. At this point, the binding information will be stored and you'll be asked if you'd like to reboot your computer. Click Yes to restart your system.
When the system comes back on-line, you'll notice that you now have an entry in the Administrative Tools (Common) program group for WINS Manager. In addition, the Windows Internet Name Service now appears in the list of Services Registered (accessible via Control Panel or Server Manager).
You can administer WINS from the WINS Manager application, which lets you accomplish a variety of tasks relating to WINS. However, for the purpose of this article we won't explore the specifics of WINS. In fact, everything we require WINS to do is pre-configured when the service is added. The service is now started and will begin dynamically tracking computers on the network configured to use WINS, as shown in Figure A.
The process of adding the DNS service is identical to adding WINS. The installation procedures are the same, and you should take the same precautions. When starting the DNS installation, navigate to the Network properties and click Add on the Services tab. Then, select the Microsoft DNS Server option. Once again, follow the file copy instructions and reboot the computer when the process completes.
As we discussed earlier, WINS performs its duties in a dynamic fashion. DNS, on the other hand, is maintained manually. To successfully configure DNS, you must first understand some of the components within the service.
DNS (Domain Name System) is structured in terms of zones and domains. Each DNS server is segmented in defined name space. The name space (or Domain Name Space) is broken up into logical zones. A zone is a defined portion of the name space whose hierarchy resides in a file within the DNS database. Each zone is part of a domain and may contain sub-domains.
A specific domain that's referred to as the root domain controls each zone. Multiple domains may be located below the root domain. These domains are separated by a period (.). For example, the fo.com domain may contain a sub-domain called dev.fo.com. This sub-domain may refer to a computer that's located in a different zone.
This structure gives you the ability to build a complicated intranet. It's important to take time for careful deliberation when you're building the foundation for your intranet. In the accompanying article's example, we construct a zone and deal only with the root domain. In addition, we add an address record to the domain to signify the location of the Web site.
When running DNS Manager for the first time, you may have to add your local server to the DNS server list. You can do so by choosing the New Server option from the DNS menu. When prompted, provide the DNS server name or IP address.
The DNS server will now be visible in the DNS Manager tree. As you can see in Figure B, the root of the server list now includes a Cache item (for more information on the entries with an ARPA extension, please refer to the DNS documentation). Cache refers to the local list of DNS entries accessed via this name server by its clients. This item provides speedy name resolution for clients accessing URLs already known to the server.
After the foundation has been set for your intranet, you must add a zone. For this example, you'll create an intranet site for fo.com. To begin, select the New Zone option from the DNS menu. You'll be prompted to choose between a Primary or Secondary zone. Because this is a new zone that isn't intended to be a copy of an existing zone, choose Primary. Then, supply the name of the zone (fo.com) and a name for the zone database file (fo.dns), as shown in Figure C.
When the zone is created, three zone records are built by default. The SOA record is the first record in each zone; it defines authority for the name server. The second record is the NS record. This record defines the name server itself. The final record is the A record, which identifies the address of the name server. The A record will default to the DNS server's computer name. For purposes of this example, you'll delete the A record supplied by default and add a new one to supply an alias for our server. Figure D shows the default records created in a DNS zone.
To delete the A record, highlight the record and press [Delete]. Once the deletion has been confirmed, you'll add a new A record to the zone. To do so, select the New Record option from the DNS menu. You'll be prompted with a New Record Resource dialog box requiring the Host name and IP address. For the Host Name, type iww; then specify the IP address of your DNS server, as shown in Figure E.
Now, go back and modify your other records to reflect this change. Start with the SOA record and replace the computer name offsrv1 with iww in the Domain Name field. Perform the same maintenance on the NS record.
As the last part of your configuration for DNS, you'll add the WINS record. The WINS integration is used primarily for non-Microsoft clients. If resolution must occur for a client that isn't running on a Win32 platform, the WINS integration with DNS will allow DNS to perform a lookup in the WINS database once the DNS resources have been exhausted. To implement this process, select the properties of the zone record on which you're enabling the record. You must click the WINS Lookup tab and select the Use WINS Resolution check box. Now, add the WINS server IP address, as shown in Figure F, and click OK.
Putting it all together
Configuring WINS and DNS is a beneficial skill. However, how can you make all these pieces fit together with your intranet Web site? Knowing that you've created the iww.fo.com zone (domain) on your DNS server, all you have to do is relate your Web site back to iww.fo.com.
Within IIS 4.0, each Web site you create has a Properties menu. This menu is accessible by right-clicking on the Web site you're configuring within the Microsoft Management Console (MMC).
The first tab shown in the Properties window is Web Site Identification. Here, you can specify where your site is located. By clicking the Advanced button, you're able to specify the location of the Web site by IP address, Port, and DNS name. For this example, add the DNS server's IP address, leave the default port of 80, and add the site's DNS name, iww.fo.com, as shown in Figure G. Now you can access the site through your browser.
This article has demonstrated how to build the foundation for a solid intranet Web site. Understanding the components used to construct a successful site is half the battle. Using these tools can change the challenge into a well thought out environment.
Joe Barnes is a senior project manager for Fundamental Objects, Inc., working with large-scale infrastructure and software-development projects. His specialties include Windows NT, Visual Basic, and Lotus Notes. You can reach Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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